By the end of the course you will be able to:

  • Clearly state what the key contributions to media studies have been in the 20th and 21st
  • Describe how and why different theories of the media were and are generated.
  • Compare and contrast the main contemporary media theories.
  • Apply a variety of media theories to the core meaning of journalism.
  • Synthesize different theoretical perspectives in order to put forward one’s own argument on recent changes in journalism.

Weekly Reading, Group Presentation & Participation (20%)

Weekly reading and other activities will serve to extend the conversation opened by the group presenting the text that week. This will also allow students to share interests, questions, and concerns related to the topic.

Midterm Exam (20%)

Midterm exam covers all reading and lecture material from in the form of definitions, identifications of key ideas, and short answers.

Final Essay (20%)

In a 1,500 word essay, students will select different theories from the course and apply them to examples from contemporary journalism.

Final Exam (40%)

Final Exam will consist of analyzing and evaluating a text from the course reading.

Topic Text Language & Academic Skills Assignments
1 Introduction to Accepted Views of the Media Thompson: Media and social theory Applying theoretical concepts. Reading strategies: Critical analysis Find examples from newspapers or film of different overviews of the role of the media in society.
2 Modernity Theodor Adorno & Max Horheimer, “The Culture Industry” (…) [1944] Expressing opinion

Giving peer feedback

Presentation skills

Explaining complex issues

Organising writing

Identify the main organising sentence for the text and write a 350-word comment. on it.
3 Transmission Harold Lasswell, “The Structure and Function of Communication in Society” [1948] Describing theories. Working in groups. Presentation skills. Giving peer feedback Identify and define key concepts within the text for our media theory glossary.
4 Persuasion & Influence Elihu Katz and Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Personal Influence [1955] Comparing and contrasting. Discussing. Working in groups and presentation skills. Giving peer feedback Relate the argument of Katz & Lazarsfeld to Lasswell’s theory of the media impact on people.
5 Prosthesis Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media [1964]. Evaluating. Expressing opinion Write a 350 word comment expressing your own judgement on the author’s article.
Midterm Exam
6 Signs Roland Barthes, “The Photographic Message” [1977]. Working in groups and presentation skills. Giving peer feedback. Select a recent news photograph and decipher possible messages according to Barthes.
7 Media Rituals James Carey, “A cultural Approach to Communication” [1999]. Comparing and contrasting Identify the author’s argument and philosophical assumption.
8 Public / Civil Sphere Jüger Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Enciclopedia Article” 2006). Applying theories Find an example of new story in which journalism seems to be working for the civil sphere.
9 Agenda Setting and Framing Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Saw, “The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media (1999). Applying theories Shortlist headlines from three different newspapers. Contrast and compare the way in which they set the agenda.
10 Convergence Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Evaluating Write a 350 word comment evaluating Jenkins’ view of the new media and advancing your own argument.